The Quranic Teaching - Born in 1919 in India (in an area...

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Unformatted text preview: Born in 1919 in India (in an area .later to become part of Pakistan) Fazlur. Rahman was raised in a deeply religious Muslim famil H t has said that by the age of ten he could recite the entire be memory: He received his undergraduate education in India bu); earned his doctorate from Oxford University. He taught at the [Uni— versrty of Durham in England, and then at McGill Universit in Montreal, Canada. During most of the 19605 he was in Pakistah a head of the Islamic Research Institute, which had been establish c: to advise the government on religious policies. Conservative o e Sition to grew dangerous by 1968; he moved to a safer ronment in California and a position at UCLA. After a brief tenur- there, he was appointed, in 1969, Professor of Islamic Thought at th: University of Chicago, where he remaineduntil his death in 1988 Rahman has been acclaimed the 1 d. _ . Scholar of his generation! ea mg Musnm mOdem‘Sl What Is the Qur'an? The Qur’an is divided into Cha _ ters or Stir ' [11 length. The early Meccan Sin-gs are armor";s l1” m number and very unequal I he shOrtest; as time oe 2:331: elfcrmgierc.l The verses in the early Sfiras are charged with En :xfidililil—f p n powerful psychological moment”; they have the character of brief but violent volcanic e ' ' _ ' I ruptions. A voice is cryin from the lifpcptn: igpilnging forcefully on the Prophet’s mind ign order to gal-{5:51:23 51 the Medein:v;;rri);;opsc10usnes§. This tone gradually gives way especially , o a more uent and eas s l h I ' creases for the detailed or ' ' ' 'y W e as t 2 legal content m- ‘ ‘ I gamzation and direction of the nasc t ' state. This 15 certainly not to say either that the voice had beefirstillmruzign , . Frederick M. Denny, 'The Legacy of Fazlur Rahman, in The Muslims of America edited by Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad (New York: Oxford University Press 1991) p 97 From Fazlur Rahman Islam Sec ' ' I ' , , 0nd Edition, copyri ht © 1979 b Th ' ' Chicago Press. Reprinted by permission of the publigsher.‘ Y e umvemty Of 416 The Qur’anic Teaching 417 that its intensive quality had changed: a Medinese verse declares "If We had sent down this Qui’an on a mountain, you would have seen it humbly submit (to the Command) and split asunder out of fear of God" (LIX, 21). But the task itself had changed. From the thud and impulse of purely moral and religious exhortation, the Qur'a‘n had passed to the construction of an actual social fabric. For the Qur’an itself, and consequently for the Muslims, the Qur’an is the Word of God (Kalfim Allah). Muhammad, too, was unshakeably convinced that he was the recipient of the Message from God, the totally Other (we shall presently try to dismver more precisely the sense of that total otherness). so much so that he rejected, on the strength of this consciousness, some of the most fundamental historical claims of the Iudaeo-Christian tradition about Abraham and other Prophets. This "Other" through some channel "dictated" the Qur’an with an absolute authority. The voice from the depths of life spoke distinctly, unmistakably, and imperiously. Not only does the word Qur’c’in, meaning "recitation," clearly indicate this, but the text of the Qur’an itself states in several places that the Qur’an is verbally revealed and not merely in its "mean- ing" and ideas. The Qur’anic term for "Revelation" is why which is fairly close in its meaning to "inspiration," provided this latter is not supposed to exclude the verbal mode necessarily (by "Word," of course, we do not mean sound). The Qur’in says, "God speaks to no human (i.e., through sound-words) except through wally (i.e., through idea-word inspiration) or from behind the veil, or He may send a messenger (an angel) who speaks through wally. . . . Even thus have We inspired you with a spirit of Our Command . . .” (XLII, 51—52). When, hOWever, during the second and the third centuries of Islam, acute differences of opinion, controversies partly influenced by Christian doctrines, arose among the Muslims about the nature of Revelation, the emerging Mus- lim “orthodoxy,” which was at the time in the crucial stage of formulating its precise content, emphasized the externality of the Prophet’s Revelation in or- der to safeguard its “otherness,” objectivity, and verbal character. The Qur'an itself certainly maintained the “otherness,” the "objectivity," and the verbal character of the Revelation, but had equally Certainly rejected its externalin vis-d-vis the Prophet. It declares, "The Trusted Spirit has brought it down upon your heart that you may be a warner" (XXVI, 194), and again, "Say: He who is an enemy of Gabriel (let him be), for it is he who has brought it down upon your heart” (11, 97). But orthodoxy (indeed, all medieval thought) lacked the necessary intellectual tools to combine in its formulation of the dogma the 0th- erness and verbal character of the Revelation on the one hand, and its intimate connection with the work and the religious personality of the Prophet on the other, i.e., it lacked the intellectual capacity to say both that the Qur’an is en- tirely the Word of God and, in an ordinary sense, also entirely the word of Muhammad. The Qur’in obviously holds both, for if it insists that it has come to the “heart” of the Prophet, how can it be external to him? This, of CCfurse, does not necessarily imply that the Prophet did not perceive also a protected figUIe, as tradition has it, but it is remarkable thatfthe Qur'an itself makes no 418 Islam mention of any figure in this connection: it is only in connection with certain special experiences (commonly connected with the Prephet’s Ascension) that the Qur’an speaks of the Prophet having seen a figure or a spirit, or some other object "at the farthest end" or "on the horizon,” although here also, . . . the ex— perience is described as a spiritual one. But orthodoxy, through the Hadith or the "tradition" from the Prophet, partly suitably interpreted and partly coined, and through the science of theology based largely on the Hadith, made the Revelation of the Prophet entirely through the ear and external to him and re- garded the angel or the spirit "that comes to the heart" an entirely external agent. The modern Western picture of the Prophetic Revelation rests largely on this orthodox formulation rather than on the Qur'in, as does, of course, the belief of the common Muslim. The present work is not the place to elaborate a theory of the Qur’anic Rev- elation in detail. Yet, if we are to deal with facts of Islamic history, the factual statements of the Qur’a‘in about itself call for some treatment. In the following brief outline an attempt is made to do justice both to historical and Islamic de- mands. . . . The basic élan of the Qur’an is moral, whence flows its emphasis on monotheism as well as on social justice. The moral law is immutable: it is God’s “Command.” Man cannot make or unmake the Moral Law: he must sub- mit himself to it, this submission to it being called islfim and its implementa- tion in life being called ’ibfida or "service to God.” It is because of the Qui’ 511’s paramount emphasis on the Moral Law that the Qur’inic God has seemed to many people to be primarily the God of justice. But the Moral Law and spiri- tual values, in order to be implemented, must be known. Now, in their power of cognitive perception men obviously differ to an indefinite degree. Further, moral and religious perception is also very different from a purely intellectual perception, for an intrinsic quality of the former is that along with perception it brings an extraordinary sense of “gravity” and leaves the subject significantly transformed. Perception, also moral perception, then has degrees. The varia- tion is not only between different individuals, but the inner life of a given in- dividual varies at different times from this point of view. We are not here talk- ing of an intrinsic moral and intellectual development and evolution, where variation is most obvious. But even in a good, mature person whose average intellectual and moral character and calibre are, in a sense, fixed, these varia- tions occur. Now a Prophet is a person whose average, overall character, the sum to- tal of his actual conduct, is far superior to those of humanity in general. He is a man who is ab initia impatient with men and even with most of their ideals, and wishes to recreate history. Muslim orthodoxy, therefore, drew the logically correct conclusion that Prophets must be regarded as immune from serious er— rors (the doctrine of ’i'sma). Muhammad was such a person, in fact the only such person really known to history. That is why his overall behaviour is re- garded by the Muslims as Sunna or the "perfect model." But, with all this, there were moments when he, as it were, “transcends himself” and his moral cog- nitive perception becomes so acute and so keen that his consciousness becomes The Qur’anic Teaching 419 ' ' ' ' ' 'th a Spirit of ' ' ' h the moral law itself. ’I'hus did we inspire you w1 ‘ gsl'ltggiln‘mnetmd: You did not know what the Book was. But We have made (lit a li ht” (XLII, 52). But the moral law and religious values are God 5 Compilahnm, and8 although they are not identical with God entirely, ttlli‘ey are (pastor; I ' ' , therefore, urely divine. Further, even Wi ' regar dina - “$533534: it is a misfaken notion that ideas and feelings float about in it Cid can be mechanically "clothed" in words. There-emits, indeed, an organic :elationship between feelings, ideas, and words. Ii; iiispiractlion, if; apcgst: ' ' ' ' l tionshi is so complete that ee ing-1' ea-w I giggizovtithhhslilf: if its ovfn. When Muhammad's mo;al mtuaijiye peggptzg‘n ' ' 'dentified with t e mor aw i — rose to the highest pomt and became i I d ink criti- ' ' ctatpomtscameun erQui’ I deed, in these moments his own condu _ h w d was we“ With ' ' 'd nt from the ages of the Qur’ an), t e or g1 I :hSemih's' i351ng ‘intseelf. The Qur'apn is thus pure Divine Word, but, of choiurls‘e, it is equally intimately related to the inmost personality of thelPrgplliilft m; (1) rfna mad whose relationship to it cannot be mechanically conceive e record The Divine Word flowed through the Prophets heart. _ h th “I But if Muhammad, in his Qui’anic moments, became one Wit ‘ e mo ct law he may not be absolutely identified either with God or even vlinth a of I'I. The Qui’an categorically forbids this, Muhaénmacid “1515::ng 3:; t er- . ' have con emn as this and all Mushms worthy of the name . a sa ' ' ' ' God. The reason is that no man m y y, ror assocrating (Shirk) a creature With his Law and to ” ' ’ fully to formulate t ' "I am the Moral Law. Man 3 duty is care . I ’ B ‘d this ' ' ' ' ' d spiritual faculties. eSi es , t to it With all his phySical, mental, an . H - _ Irlgguknows of no way of assigning any meamng to the sentence. So and so is Divine." The Qur’inic Teaching ' asized that the basic élan of the In th‘e f'm'egomlg We: lefaingzitfl $1113: ideas of social and economic jus— Qur'an mug-1:21 followed from it in the Qur’an. This is absolutely true so me that 1mmd his distiny are concerned. As the Qur’an gradually worked out far as man ore fully the moral order for men comes to assume a centra its .World'Ylgw terest a full picture of a cosmic order which is not only pomt Of diftfhmehll1 h religious sensitivity but exhibits an amazmg degree of co— Chal'ged \Nld a item A concept of God, the absolute author of the universle, Penance an dcol‘isere thzyattributes of creativity, order, and mercy are not merlc; y iifdiflgdpir :dded to one another but interpenetratfviprrgigetegyT; e: . u - n n n " I , . long creating, Brgel-Imlg56fllncfgefiltlhgé’lMgerciful” (Rahmalfl) is the (“‘2’ compasses everny aged tha't is very frequently USEd in the Qur an as‘a Si] adjecfwal namef God besides Allah, It is of course, true, its modern risen?) htfnfe‘i’liarlaelcl‘etlsat Rahman was used as name for the Deity 1“ SOUth Ara m 7” s I . 420 Islam fore Islam, but this fact of historical transportation from the South is obviously irrelevant from our point of View. If We leave out man, for the time being, i.e., his specific spiritual-moral constitution, and consider the rest of the entire cre- ated universe, the interpretation of these three ultimate attributes is that God creates everything, and that in the very act of this creation order or "command" is ingrained in things whereby they cohere and fall into a pattern, and rather than "go astray" from the ordained path, evolve into a cosmos; that, finally, all this is nothing but the Sheer mercy of God for, after all, existence is not the ab- solute desert of anything, and in the place of existence there could just as well be pure, empty nothingness. Indeed, the most intense impression that the Qur'an as a whole leaves upon a reader is not of a watchful, frowning, and punishing God, as the Christians have generally made it out to be, nor of a chief judge as the Muslim legalists have tended to think, but of a unitary and purposive will creative of order in the universe: the qualities of power or majesty, of watchfulness or justice and of wisdom attributed to God in the Qur’an with unmistakable emphasis are, in fact, immediate inferences from the creative orderliness of the cosmos. Of all the Qur’énic terms, perhaps the most basic, comprehensive, and revelatory at once of divine nature of the universe is the term amr which we have trans- lated above as order, orderliness, or command. To everything that is created is fpso facto communicated its arm which is its own law of being but which is also a law whereby it is integrated into a system. This amr, i.e., order or com- mand of God, is ceaseless. The term used to indicate the communication of mm to all things, including man, is waliy, which we have translated in the previous section as “inspiration.” With reference to inorganic things it should be trans- lated as "ingraining." This is because with reference to man, who constitutes a special case, it is not just arm that is sent down from high, but a “spirit-from- amr” (rfih min aI-amr), as the Qur’e‘in repeatedly tells us. With reference to man (and possibly also to the jinn, an invisible order of creation, parallel to man but said to be created of a fiery substance, a kind of duplicate of man which is, in general, more prone to evil, and from whom the devil is also said to have sprung), both the nature and the content of amr are transformed, because amr really becomes here the moral command: it is not that which actually is an order but that which actually is a disorder wherein an order is to be brought about. The actual moral disorder is the result of a deep—seated moral fact to remedy which God and man must collaborate. This factl is that coeval with man is the devil (shag/tin) who beguiles him unceas- mg y. The Qur'in portrays the moral dualism in man's character which gives rise to the moral struggle, and the potentialities man and man alone possesses, by two strikingly effective stories. According to one, when God intended to cre- ate man as his vicegerent, the angels protested to Him saying that man would be prone to evil, "corrupt the earth and shed blood," while they Were utterly obedient to the Divine Will, whereupon God replied, "I have knowledge of that which you do not know” (11, 30). The other story tells us that when God ffered go accept it, until man came forward and b0 rebuke, "Man is so ignorant and foolhardyl" a more penetrating and effective man's frail and faltering nature, scend the actual towards the ide _ This fact of the devil creates an entirely ne "has ingrained in it (i.e., the human soul) a I 8); but so artful and powerful is the dew] even to decipher properly while some who can deCip strongly. At times of such he sends the angel "the Isp mand that is with Him is so sure, it is, indeed, the "Invisible Book” of (all) Books" (LVI, 78; LXXXV, 21 iii] messages to humanity are the Prop is the Book that reveals the Command: the Qur‘in the last Book that has from the first to the last seeks to emp necessary for creative hu Qur’an’s interest is man an The Qur'anic Teaching 421 ' ' fused ' ” nd the Earth, the entire Creation re ' ’The Trust to the Heavens a re it, adding With a sympathem (XXXIII, 72). There can hardly characterization of the human Situation an yet his innate boldness and the Will to tran- al constitutes his uniqueness and greatness. w dimension in the case of man. God discernment of good and evil" (XCI, s seduction that men normallty til ' a1 inscri tion of God on the human ‘ ea , tile‘il'siteftflo be mosed and impelled by it suffiCiently crisis God finds and selects some human to whom irit of the Command” that is "with Him. The Com- so definite in what it affirms and denies that written on a "Preserved Tablet," the "Mother —22; XIII, 39). Men charged with these fate— hets. The Qur’an "sent" to Muhammad Muhammad is the final Prophet and 0 revealed. beeritfe Qur’an emerges as a document that hasize all those moral tensions that are man action. Indeed, at bottom the centre of the d his betterment. For this it is essential that men k of certain tensions which, indeed, have been and foremost, man may not jump to‘the SutCl: ake and unmake moral law according to his at this law is there for him. Hence the God are most strikingly emphasized all creation, man has been given h the “Trust” which en— With this background, therefore, operate within the framewor created by God in him. First dal conclusion that he can "heart’s desire" from the obVious fact th ' f b lute su remacy and the majesty o bysihe Qur’Pan. On the other hand among ' ' ' ‘ ndowed wit ‘ st inunense otentialities and is e _ g . f .usme iii: r:li'ceation shrank3 back in fear from accepting. Again, the idea 0 } s f1 onl 5 0 moral 13 W, an 1d€a CC 1.1211 ‘1 r C f . the QLII a“ COHdLIIlIL; ' ' lares to be a ' etc of God, which it dec ‘ . hopelessness and laCk Of trufl m the mtheh’rvhole range of moral tensnons, in- cardinal infideuty. The same is me Of knowledge and ignorance, suffernncc ' uman ower and weakness, . I I 11 im— 2:): igaflation £0 While the potentialities of man are immense, equa y ' ‘ f his fail— mense therefore, are the penalties which man must face as a result o ‘ ‘ * he me ' ' G d stands at the apex of t e 0 I behef m on 'a'n. From this belief is held to s of the Divine In— .In pursuance of this picture, h Quid, ' stem of belief derived from t e _ t xfizlwmbzhef in angels (spirits of the Command) triinSIélflttfi: Divme rave message to man, in the Prophets, the human reposnories . ti n (the last in the series being Muhammad), in the genpinerness of the mes- . ' i . saoges of the Prophets, the "Book," and in the Day of Rec on g ...
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The Quranic Teaching - Born in 1919 in India (in an area...

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